Cover of Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology
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1. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Joseph Pitt Letter from the Editor-in-Chief
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2. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Linda Johansson The Pragmatic Robotic Agent
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Can artifacts be agents in the same sense as humans? This paper endorses a pragmatic stance to that issue. The crucial question is whether artifacts can have free will in the same pragmatic sense as we consider humans to have a free will when holding them responsible for their actions. The origin of actions is important. Can an action originate inside an artifact, considering that it is, at least today, programmed by a human? In this paper it is argued that autonomy with respect to norms is crucial for artificial agency.
3. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Golfo Maggini Bodily Presence, Absence, and their Ethical Challenges: Towards a Phenomenological Ethics of the Virtual
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In this paper I deal with Hubert Dreyfus’s phenomenological ethics regarding information technologies and the use of the Internet. From the 1990s on, Dreyfus elaborates a multi-faceted model of ethical expertise which may find a paradigmatic field of application in the ways in which information technologies transform our sense of personal identity, as well as our view of ethical integrity and commitment. In his 2001 On the Internet, Dreyfus investigates further several of the ideas already present in his groundbreaking 1997 Disclosing New Worlds. A phenomenological ethics of the virtual aims at going beyond both the objectivist ideal of moral universalism, which departs from the dominant Cartesianism both in epistemology and in ethics, as well as from the postmodernist, Nietzsche-inspired moral relativism. By referring back to existentialism, especially to Kierkegaard, and to phenomenology, especially to Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology, Dreyfus sketches a model of ethical expertise which can be particularly useful for internet users and researchers, as it combines a phenomenological anthropology of the virtual with a theory of cultural innovation and change. In my view, Dreyfus’s model may help overcome the strict either determinist or relativist accounts of the ethical challenges posed by information technologies. By endorsing a strongly anti-intellectualist view of information technologies, Dreyfus poses the necessity of identity and ethical integrity not only as abstract principles that require rational justification, but also as context-bound everyday practices that are in conformity with the “style” of a culture and several disclosive activities within it.
4. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Bonnie Talbert Screened Conversations: Technologically Mediated Interactions and Knowledge of Other Minds
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Social scientists have documented some recent, dramatic changes in the nature of our social lives. Many scholars have thought that our reliance on technology to communicate with others is in large part responsible for that loss. However, there is also data to support the opposite conclusion—it might be the case that social networking technologies have helped, rather than hindered our social interactions. What I would like to propose is a philosophical argument, which I hope will offer a different sort of answer to the questions about whether we know people in the same ways, or perhaps more or less well, than we once did, in the days before Facebook, email, and such. Whether or not technology has enhanced our social lives, it is worth considering whether coming to know another person is a different sort of exercise than it used to be, when face-to-face interactions with others were the preferred way to find out what was going on in someone else’s life. What is different in sharing my thoughts, beliefs, feelings, desires, and such with another over the Internet versus in person? Is there any kind of knowledge that is available only in a face-to-face context? If so, what is the nature of that knowledge? In philosophical terms, what I want to examine is how our knowledge of others’ minds changes with various technologies that we use to communicate the contents of our mental states.
5. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Pak-Hang Wong The Public and Geoengineering Decision-Making: A View from Confucian Political Philosophy
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In response to the Royal Society report’s claim that “the acceptability of geo­engineering will be determined as much by social, legal, and political issues as by scientific and technical factors” (Geoengineering the Climate: Science, Governance and Uncertainty [London: Royal Society, 2009], ix), a number of authors have suggested the key to this challenge is to engage the public in geoengineering decision-making. In effect, some have argued that inclusion of the public in geoengineering decision-making is necessary for any geoengineering project to be morally permissible. Yet, while public engagement on geoengineering comes in various forms, the discussion in geoengineering governance and the ethics of geoengineering have too often conceptualized it exclusively in terms of public participation in decision-making, and supported it by various liberal democratic values. However, if the predominant understanding of public engagement on—or, the role of the public in—geoengineering decision-making is indeed only grounded on liberal democratic values, then its normative relevance could be challenged by and in other ethical-political traditions that do not share those values. In this paper, I shall explore these questions from a Confucian perspective. I argue that the liberal democratic values invoked in support of the normative importance of public participation are, at least, foreign to Confucian political philosophy. This presents a prima facie challenge to view public participation in geoengineering decision-making as a universal moral requirement, and invites us to reconsider the normative significance of this form of public engagement in Confucian societies. Yet, I contend that the role of the public remains normatively significant in geoengineering governance and the ethics of geoengineering from a Confucian perspective. Drawing from recent work on Confucian political philosophy, I illustrate the potential normative foundation for public engagement on geoengineering decision-making.
6. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 3
Sven Ove Hansson A Milestone in the Philosophy of Technology
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7. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
D. E. Wittkower, Evan Selinger, Lucinda Rush Public Philosophy of Technology: Motivations, Barriers, and Reforms
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Philosophers of technology are not playing the public role that our own theoretical perspectives motivate us to take. A great variety of theories and perspectives within philosophy of technology, including those of Marcuse, Feenberg, Borgmann, Ihde, Michelfelder, Bush, Winner, Latour, and Verbeek, either support or directly call for various sorts of intervention—a call that we have failed to heed adequately. Barriers to such intervention are discussed, and three proposals for reform are advanced: (1) post-publication peer-reviewed reprinting of public philosophy, (2) increased emphasis on true open access publication, and (3) increased efforts to publicize and adapt traditional academic research.
8. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Anthony Ross Distance and Presence in Analogue and Digital Epistolary Networks
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This paper considers the particular ways in which the familiar letter (for thousands of years the predominant means of communicating over distance) and twenty-first century technologies like the Internet differingly shaped and shape our experience of distance and presence. It follows Heidegger, Dreyfus, and Borgmann in critiquing the kinds of experience and action the Internet makes possible, and—by way of Benjamin’s concept of “aura”—argues that while mediated communication over distance might have never been easier, faster, or cheaper, this increase in our effective power comes at the cost of a diminution of the affective power of the messages carried.
9. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
James Gerrie, Stephen F. Haller A Proposal for How to Organize the Public Funding of Science
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Our article attempts to provide some clarity to the debate about the proper relationship between science and public policy by drawing on the philosophical field of logic. We argue that based on an analysis of the most fundamental ways that empirical and evaluative truth claims can be used together in arguments, the tendency to conceive of this relationship either in dual terms of “pure” vs. “applied” or complex “multi-disciplinary” or “multi-cultural” systems of categorization should be rejected in favor a basic four-part division. A significantly improved understanding of the connection between science and public policy can be based on an examination of the four most basic kinds of logical connection between empirical and evaluative statements. One such improvement is a better understanding of how funding should be divided between state and private interests.
10. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Sébastien de la Fosse Media and Cognition: The Relationship between Thought Structures and Media Structures
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While throughout history, knowledge and information have been mostly bound in language and text, new twenty-first-century media increasingly tend to break with this tradition of linear sequentiality. This paper will present an account of how this development may be explained by a relationship between the use of digital technologies on the one hand, and the (human) user’s cognitive processes on the other. This will be done by, first, outlining two existing conceptions of human cognition and, subsequently, by confronting these with observations in the field of philosophy of media, most prominently the position of Marshall McLuhan.
11. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 2
Steve Matthewman Michel Foucault, Technology, and Actor-Network Theory
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While Michel Foucault’s significance as a social theorist is undisputed, his importance as a technological theorist is frequently overlooked. This article considers the richness and the range of Foucault’s technological thinking by surveying his works and interviews, and by tracking his influence within Actor-Network Theory (ANT). The argument is made that we will not fully understand Foucault without understanding the central place of technology in his work, and that we will not understand ANT without understanding Foucault.
12. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Yoni Van Den Eede Guest Editor's Introduction
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13. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Andrew Feenberg The Mediation is the Message: Rationality and Agency in the Critical Theory of Technology
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Critical theory of technology brings technology studies to bear on the social theory of rationality. This paper discusses this connection through a reconsideration of the contribution of the Frankfurt School to our understanding of what I call the paradox of rationality, the fact that the promise of the Enlightenment has been disappointed as advances in scientific and technical knowledge have led to more and more catastrophic consequences. The challenge for critical theory is to understand this paradox without romantic and anti-modern afterthoughts as a contribution to a progressive worldview.
14. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Graeme Kirkpatrick Formal Bias and Normative Critique of Technology Design
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Andrew Feenberg’s distinction between formal and substantive bias in the design of technology is interrogated. The two dimensions of his definition—inten­tion and the enhancement of specific social interests—are examined and eight logical possibilities arising from his argument are identified. These possibilities are explored through discussion of examples and it is argued that Feenberg has both: a) not broken sufficiently with substantivist philosophies of technology so that he retains ambivalence on technology’s ‘biased essence,’ and b) illegitimately rejected the idea of a technology that is biased in itself. The latter category is important to critical theory of technology and the paper offers a conceptualization of it that draws on Habermas’s discourse ethics.
15. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Roy Bendor The Role of Experience in the Critical Theory of Technology
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Andrew Feenberg’s critical theory of technology features a sophisticated analysis of the ways by which social forces influence processes of technological design, production and use. While Feenberg is foremostly read as a critical theorist, this essay argues that his call to democratize technology stands on distinct phenomenological grounds. This is based on the way he illustrates the role of experience in subtending potentials for the progressive transformation of the sociotechnical sphere. Against this background, this essay identifies an important shift in the way Feenberg articulates experience, from relating it to lifelong processes of learning and identity-construction (Bildung) to an emphasis on visceral immediacy (Erlebnis). This shift manifests a newfound focus on material, embodied meanings over-against linguistic ones, and results in a considerable tension between Feenberg’s appeal to experiential self-evidence and his critical position toward technology. The discussion of the two modes of experience exemplifies the current that underlies Feenberg’s work, namely the creation of traffic between ontological and ontic accounts of sociotechnical entities, practices and relations.
16. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Peter-Paul Verbeek Resistance Is Futile: Toward a Non-Modern Democratization of Technology
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Andrew Feenberg’s political philosophy of technology uniquely connects the neo-Marxist tradition with phenomenological approaches to technology. This paper investigates how this connection shapes Feenberg’s analysis of power. Influenced by De Certeau and by classical positions in philosophy of technology, Feenberg focuses on a dialectical model of oppression versus liberation. A hermeneutic reading of power, though, inspired by the late Foucault, does not conceptualize power relations as external threats, but rather as the networks of relations in which subjects are constituted. Such a hermeneutic approach replaces De Certeau’s tactics of resistance with a critical and creative accompaniment of technological developments.
17. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Gert Goeminne Science, Technology, and the Political: The (Im)possibility of Democratic Rationalization
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In this paper, I elaborate on the very political dimension of epistemology that is opened up by the radical change of focus initiated by constructivism: from science as knowledge to science as practice. In a first step, this brings me to claim that science is political in its own right, thereby drawing on Mouffe and Laclau’s framework of radical democracy and its central notion of antagonism to make explicit what is meant by ‘the political.’ Secondly, I begin to explore what this intrinsic political dimension of science might entail for democratic thought. I do so by connecting my preliminary explorations in the field of science with Andrew Feenberg’s elaborate frame of thought on the democratization of technology. Interestingly, Feenberg is one of the few thinkers who have connected questions of power and ideology, typically treated of within the field of political theory, with a constructivist approach to technological progress. In this sense, this paper can be seen as a first attempt to expand Feenberg’s framework of democratic rationalization from the world of technology to the world of science.
18. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Joke Bauwens, Karl Verstrynge Digital Technology, Virtual Worlds, and Ethical Change
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This paper questions the shifting meaning of the ethical categories of proximity and alterity in the light of the technological and social changes that virtual social worlds went through. It takes Roger Silverstone’s key theme of “proper distance” as a point of departure, and discusses the significance of this concept by linking it up with the more media-theoretical approaches on virtual communication as developed in McLuhan’s and Baudrillard’s body of thought. It is argued that today’s virtual realities ask for both a philosophical and media-sociological reconsideration of the traditional ethical category of alterity. As such, it links up with Feenberg’s idea that “online groups are indeed a qualitatively new medium” (A. Feenberg and M. Bakardjieva, “Virtual Community: No ‘Killer Implication,’” New Media & Society 6(1) (2004): 37–43, 41), but at the same time challenges Feenberg’s reservations about a theory of media centrism.
19. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Yoni Van Den Eede The Mailman Problem: Complementing Critical Theory of Technology by Way of Media Theory
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Critical theory of technology (CTT) and postphenomenology (PostPhen) complement each other finely. Yet whereas CTT runs the risk of negating the interwovenness of humans and technology, a problem partly resolved by PostPhen, PostPhen itself threatens to neglect its very own base, i.e., the condition of technology and society being first and foremost human endeavors. This paper suggests not to decry these two approaches but to add a third component in order to compensate for their deficiencies. That third partner consists of a new-fledged version of philosophical anthropology elaborated on the basis of the media theory of Marshall McLuhan. I am here mainly concerned with how such an approach can supplement CTT, which it does by offering an account of technological mediation that harbors not only a relational-ontological but also—in contrast with PostPhen—a substantivist-ontological aspect, and in addition a proper theory of technological blindness, much needed to make sense of perceptive biases and meaning-constituting activities in everyday life. I will illustrate these issues by way of what I dub ‘the Mailman Problem’: a sketch of a very mundane instance of “deworlding” that is, however, not perceived as such.
20. Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology: Volume > 17 > Issue: 1
Andrew Feenberg What I Said and What I Should Have Said: On Critical Theory of Technology
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In this reply I address problems identified by my critics in my concept of formal bias, my use of phenomenology, the relation between my work and McLuhan’s media theory, and the relation of science to technology.